“We Joke About it, But I Get Very Anxious When Guys Get Hurt”: Set Medic Eloy Lara on Jackass Forever
By the time of the new Jackass Forever, some of the series’s performers have neared or surpassed age 50. Their bodies remain sturdy, if marked by 20 years of unnatural trials. To extend their infamous game of indecent brinkmanship, the crew has endured a brand-new omnibus of freak obstacles and some reimaginings of past favorites. Beekeepers use a queen bee to attract a hive to Steve-O’s (47) phallus; Danger Ehren (45) sustains countless blows to the groin in an exhaustive series of “Cup tests”; Johnny Knoxville (50) re-contends with a particularly mean bull in a ring; series newcomers (“Poopies,” “Jasper,” and “Zachattack”) body slide down a ramp slicked with KY Jelly into unbudging rocks. But the aging stuntmen could at least rest assured that set medic Eloy Lara was there for them in case worse turned to worst. Faced with potential injuries day to day, Lara had his work cut out for him. He prepared intensely, but found the Jackass family to be resilient as ever.
Filmmaker: How was the premiere?
Eloy Lara: Paramount didn’t want to have a big premiere, so we had a little one. But [director] Jeff [Tremaine] got COVID so he couldn’t go. [laughs] Everybody else was there but him. It was fun. We all knew it was going to be balls, dicks and semen. They really went for it this time. When I went to see it on Thursday in a regular theater everybody seemed to like it too.
Filmmaker: What are you seeing while watching the film that audiences aren’t aware of?
Lara: When Danger Ehren took a pogo stick to the groin, I had to go in there and grab his balls to check it out. They said I have the softest hands in Hollywood. [laughs] We joke about it, but I get very anxious when guys get hurt. Then Jeff wants me to hold back until they get their shots. [laughs]
Filmmaker: I was going to ask—since the cameramen are the first ones on the scene, I imagine that’s difficult, rewiring as a first responder.
Lara: Oh, exactly. I’ve done a lot of shows where people do big stunts, get hurt and you run right in and help them out. On this one, you have to give it a few seconds. You just wait. They know what the outcome is going to be. Almost every stunt has been drawn out and looked at. They look at the ramifications before they do them. They know what’s going to happen, they know the consequences but they want to get that shot—so they hold me back, and they had to do that quite a few times, I’ll tell you that. Sometimes I just can’t hold my ass back. Even one of the producers said they had to cut me out a few times. [laughs]
Filmmaker: What scenes did you make on camera?
Lara: The mime one, right before Jeff Tremaine gets hit with the TASER. I have a yellow and black vest. Then, in the Icarus scene, I’m right behind Johnny Knoxville as he’s walking up.
Filmmaker: Was this your first project with the Jackass crew?
Lara: I did Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa in 2012/13, and I’ve been friends with them ever since. I go to the first AD, Joel Osborne’s, Super Bowl party every year. I’ve known Joel since doing music videos. I did a Lady Gaga video before anyone knew who she was. They were like, Lady who?
Filmmaker: What was different about your work on Bad Grandpa?
Lara: It was a bunch of hidden camera stuff and I had to fight the crowd. A lot of times, I was in a white van watching what was happening in case someone beat up Johnny or something. But even when they did get in trouble, they would rarely call me, because these guys are tough as nails believe it or not. They break themselves, and they know they’re broken, but they don’t cry like I would.
On Bad Grandpa, we only had Johnny Knoxville and Jackson [Nicoll], the little boy. So, everyone was pretty much on their best behavior on set. VICE did a behind the scenes of Bad Grandpa, and you can see some of the backstage antics there. I believe when we were shooting the clown scene, I got hit in the balls. So, I very quickly assimilated to the crew. Getting hit in the balls by them is an honor. I was in the navy, so I tend to do some extreme things myself.
Filmmaker: Outside of Jackass, what does your day to day usually look like?
Lara: It changes day to day. For example, the opening scene of La La Land, we shot that over two weekends. That was four days. It was over 110 degrees, 115 for two of those days. It was nasty. You had all these dancers and extras. I had an extra medic with me, and we had to hand out at least 1,000 gallons of water and Gatorade. We soaked terry clothes in ice water and handed them off to the crew to keep them going. Other days they give me an office and I sit and watch TV all day. I’ve done Michael Bay Victoria’s Secret commercials in the desert, where they’re flying a helicopter over a Bentley. I did a music video with Christina Aguilera on an elephant—you need a medic for that. [laughs] We had Nelly Furtado pouring cold-ass water all over herself on a freezing day for her video with Timbaland—you need a medic for that. I did that one with Gwen Stefani and Pharrell. They had little wild baby cubs, and people were scared—you need a medic for that!
Filmmaker: What’s your standard kit look like?
Lara: I’m an EMT, so I carry AED [automated external defibrillator], oxygen, over the counter medications. A lot of the crews tend to ask for Emergen-C so I carry that. I call myself a Rite-Aid on set. So, if you don’t have it and need it, ask me and I might just have it. I try to have it all. I like to take care of my people because the show must go on. Sometimes I’m just giving therapy to someone who wants to talk about their wives or kids. I’ve made some lifetime friends, who I’d kill and die for, over an aspirin. You’re spending 12-15 hours a day with these people. The Hollywood crews I’ve worked with are incredible. The amount of energy they put into their work and craft astonishes me. I see electricians pulling thousands of pounds of cable all day long. Another guy, having to build an entire Dairy Queen and take it right down the next day. They work their balls off.
Filmmaker: Do you have a top ten things you always want with you?
Lara: Over the counter meds, first aid kit, trauma kit, O2 kit, AED, BP cuff and stethoscope, sunscreen, an umbrella, back pain patches—every crew has one person with major back pain, every single one—speaker for music, and my smile and humor!
Filmmaker: How did you break into doing medic work in the movie industry?
Lara: When I got out of the navy, I started doing security on set to get me through school. I was doing fire academy and working part time in an ambulance, because I needed that experience to become a fireman. I also needed to make money—security made me more than I got working in an ambulance. My dad was a locksmith, so I was also working with my dad, and had my own cellphone business. Then one day I hurt myself with a patient—he was a heavy guy. There was about four or five of us holding him, the stairs didn’t hold, and we fell. I ended up hurting myself, so my dreams of being a fireman were shot to hell. The only thing I could do was sit around, so I went back to doing security on set. One day I met this beautiful man named Roy Erwin, a veteran medic, who I believe is retired now. He was also a navy veteran. I got to telling him about my experience in the ambulance, how I had wanted to be a fireman and he said, “You’re more than qualified to hand out Band-Aids and aspirin.” That’s 70% what set medics do—wait for people to get sick and hurt.
So, he took me under his wing, showed me what he had in his kit, and introduced me to other medics, who also started helping me. That’s how it started. But I didn’t always want to be in Hollywood. When I really got addicted was when I did a cash job for Porsche. When you buy a Porsche, they give you a DVD, and we were out shooting that particular DVD for a car. They paid us all in cash, and it was the most money I have ever made in one week in my entire life. I couldn’t believe that they paid me to travel and take care of people. We were in the desert, and I had to keep people cool. Then we went up to Mount Whitney and people got altitude sickness. It had a little of everything and I fell in love with it.
Before I was doing little jobs on a stage where I’d sit down and read a book. So boring! But after the Porsche job, I started calling every medic I knew, and every medic I had talked to before, to tell them this is what I wanted to do. I met a man named William Hall. He owns a company called Cinema Safety Services. He’s the one who got me into the music video and commercial world. He took me under his wing and became my mentor. I say I pray to William Hall and I pray to Jesus Chris, because he changed my life. He showed me what Hollywood is all about—love.
I just finished a TV show. The cast was all Mexican; I happen to be Mexican. The show took place in East LA; I happen to be from East LA. Within the first two weeks of the show everybody was in love with each other. They had a picture of me up in the office. I don’t think I could ever get that sort of love working in a cubicle. I know I’m blessed; I know this is somebody else’s dream I’m living—because this was not mine—but it’s a dream life, I’ll tell you that.
Filmmaker: I think I’ve only ever seen one set medic on set. When do you call for more?
Lara: Usually you don’t have more than one medic unless there’s like 100 people. But there’s no set number, each production company has their own number. The most medics I’ve ever had is probably five on the same scene.
Filmmaker: Was Jackass Forever a regular 12-hour day?
Lara: Sometimes they got the stunt in one take, and we were done. I maybe never worked more than a ten-hour day. Most of the work was done in prep. So, on the days when they were building or striking the set, they’d have another medic out there. I just worked on Angelene, and that was a nasty 15 or 16 hours—18-hour days sometimes.
Filmmaker: With all the scorpions, spiders, bees, snakes, etc. do you need to carry antivenoms or anything specific?
Lara: Nothing we used was poisonous, and we always had the Humane Society or something like that to make sure the animals don’t get hurt. I think you can even hear them say a few times, “Don’t hurt the snake!” They cared more about the bugs and the animals than they did the actors.
Filmmaker: How did you treat the bee stings on Steve-O’s penis?
Lara: I couldn’t do that day; it was another medic. But I’m sure they had an EpiPen standing close. [laughs] With stunts like that, though, we don’t usually have an ambulance standing close. During the bull stunt, I talked with Rick Cossack, and everybody thought they killed Johnny Knoxville. That was another day I wasn’t there.
Filmmaker: What stunts did you have to step into help?
Lara: One of the biggest instances was when Poopies did the parachute. He really did get knocked out. Thousands of gallons of KY Jelly will give you that good slide. Then they got every fan in Hollywood, literally. Then they hit grass. People think there’s padding, but if you don’t see it on screen, it’s not there. If you watch the movie, you see Johnny holding his arms up and saying, “We’re back!” He was looking at me telling me to hold back—I was right in front of him. As soon as he got up and said something, everybody started laughing, then I exhaled. The other one was the pogo stick stunt. The first time they did it, Ehren got hit in the abdomen. That’s the one I was worried about, because they did the second one right away and hit him square in the balls. That’s the one where I had to palpate his balls to see if we popped one, to see if everything was okay.
Filmmaker: Danger Ehren really takes the brunt of the trauma this time. I imagine you two got close.
Lara: I wanted to get a Jackass tattoo and he told me where to put it—under my arm in my armpit. We had a close working relationship.
When Zachass jumped into the cacti, I spent about an hour and a half to two hours lifting his fat and getting all the little spikes out from between his rolls. So, I definitely got close to Zach, he’s a sweetheart. They look rough and rude on camera, but at the end of the scene they’re mushy and you just want to hug and kiss them—especially Preston. He’s like the papa bear, so full of love. I want him to be my grandpa, I want Johnny Knoxville to be my dad, and I want Jeff Tremaine to be my brother.
Filmmaker: How do you prepare to treat a series of testicle injuries?
Lara: Well, you ask their permission. The only time I had to ask permission was when Ehren’s got hit, because they tend to take care of themselves. For example, when Steve-O was doing a stunt where he was supposed to go over a ramp and barrels on skis in the middle of a bullring, while being pulled by a horse, they did it a few times and couldn’t get it right. The last time he did it, he hit the ramp and broke his collarbone. I ran into there to help him out, but he said he was OK. We literally threw him in a passenger van and sent him to the hospital. That guy’s tough as nails.
Filmmaker: That’s not in the movie, right?
Lara: Right, but you can see him in a sling in one of the scenes.
Filmmaker: Were you hurt at all?
Lara: On Bad Grandpa I was hit in the balls a few times. But on Jackass, I was told that Paramount told the Jackass cast that they weren’t allowed to fuck with the crew. So, this time, I was waving my balls [with pants on, to be clear] on set because they couldn’t hit them. But on Bad Grandpa, everyone wore a cup.
Filmmaker: Are there dangerous moments from your career that you think you’ll always remember?
Lara: There’s quite a few. We scalped a guy once on a commercial. Someone had an epileptic seizure—my mom has epilepsy, so that gets to me… Oh, jeez!
Filmmaker: Sorry, you don’t have to go through them all.
Lara: [laughs] On Ted 2, they did a whole fight scene in Comic Con. They knocked two guys into a glass case. It was a real glass, and they literally dragged those guys’ skin across that glass, turning their skin into ground beef. They shot that scene twice, so they dragged them across it twice. It was bloody and nasty. I don’t know why they did it—but it looked good on camera! So, at the end of the day, I patched them up and sent them home.
When I was shooting a Quiznos commercial, the whole premise was that there were hundreds of people inside the store with their face pressed up on the glass. Then a guy comes up and opens the door, and all the cast busts out and falls onto the shattered glass. What was supposed to happen was, the first row of people were stunt people who would fall onto the glass. Then all the other people, which were background actors—and I don’t know why they used background actors!—were supposed to fall on the stunt people. They did it once, and it went as planned. But when they did it again, a lot of the background actors got gashed up. Luckily, there were three medics there, and Roy Erwin, the guy who helped me decide me get in, was the lead medic. I think we sent eight people to the hospital for hand gashes.
I did a TGIF commercial where the set was supposed to come together, but they raided it too fast and slammed together and it pinned the door on one of the booths. Another one: I was doing a Honda Skydiving thing and they wanted to set some record. They wanted to do like a thousand or ten thousand dives in one day. We were in Paris. So, they break the record, and then the last guy to jump out was the best, main guy—a pro with a camera. Everyone ran onto the field to greet him, so he couldn’t land on the landing pad, and he landed a little bit off. But he lands, everyone’s cheering, he’s picking up his parachute, and then he takes a few steps, his foot lands in a hole, and wham! He breaks his leg. [laughs]
Filmmaker: Because the Jackass crew is getting older, did you have to treat them any differently?
Lara: I thought I would have to be a little extra cautious or closer to set. I bought a lot of extra bandages and icepacks, but I was pleasantly surprised. They’ve thought about it over a thousand times and they’re prepared. Ehrin gets hit in the balls, and a female producer comes up to ask to take a picture. He takes the blanket off his lap, lifts up his balls, and lets her shoot his balls! You never see things like that! To a regular person that might seem a little weird, but that’s family! That’s love! You don’t get that on every set. Jackass has been my favorite. I love these fucking guys.